“If you want to change or improve something about your voice, you need to listen to it first!“– Ineke Van Doorn
When my Conservatory teacher said that sentence I realized that in order to become the owner of your voice, you need to analyze it and understand what you do and how it sounds.
I have no idea who you are, how you sing, and what you need, and I was wondering if you know that? Have you ever properly listened to yourself?
Did you realize that the voice in your head sounds different than on a recording? You might not even like how your voice sounds on a recording…. Well, that’s actually a universal human phenomenon, we hear our voices with different resonance but more to that another time.
The way your voice sounds on a recording, that’s the way listeners will perceive it, so let’s find out how you can analyze what you got and find out what you need, to own the sound of your voice.
Below you will find a couple of questions you can ask yourself to get a better picture of your voice. But remember to stay open-minded and not be too critical of what you hear – you are in an endless learning process with your singing!
If you can’t answer all of the questions below, that’s normal… just by thinking about them you will be listening differently already, and especially with more awareness!
While reading through the questions, write down what you think are the strong and weak points of your voice!
1. Are you a male or a female?
Have you had the situation where you wanted to sing that „one Song“, but it was originally sung by the other gender, and therefore in a key that is too low/too high for you?
You can solve that problem easily by:
- Finding your vocal range (all the notes between the highest and lowest note you can sing);
- And transposing the piece into a key that fits your range. Here you can search for songs and check what is an optimal transposition for you.
💡 FACT. A Range can develop and get bigger with time and practice! In general, it is easier to develop your high notes, so take it easy on the low notes!
2. How old are you?
Does the sound of your voice suit your age or does it sound older/younger?
Thinking about this question, you should keep in mind that everyone’s voice is different, so there is not a wrong sound – even if you sound like a 5-year-old, being a grown-up… maybe that sound can become your thing!
Your voice is constantly changing and grows forever, no matter how old you are. But it is a fact that younger singers have a more delicate voice – so should be more careful! If you for example always sing loud and high, your voice is strained, gets tired faster, and is getting used to stressful singing, a habit you don’t want!
If you feel stressed, while singing, try to find out why:
- Is your breath too short?
- Is the key of the piece too high/low for you?
- Is the rhythm too fast/slow?
- Do you stumble upon certain words?
Try to pinpoint your problem
3. Do you have a high, medium, or low voice?
Generally, it can be said that the majority of singers have a medium voice, which means that they can’t sing extremely high/extremely low. If you always sing the same songs at the same height and haven’t tried going higher or lower you might miss out on hidden potential!
Of course, it is scary to step out of the comfort zone (e.g. singing in the middle) but explore your voice! Maybe you think you have a high voice even though your lows sound beautiful and vice versa!
📌 TIPP. While exploring your voice make sure that no one can interrupt/distract you – you want to have the space to go crazy and sing as high, low, loud, soft, scratchy, with vibrato, without, monotonous, sad, happy, angry, soft, beautiful, etc.
Always remember that it shouldn’t hurt!
4. Is your voice heavy or light?
This is about the timbre or colour of your voice and can be developed but not really changed. People sometimes think that having a heavy voice is an advantage because they can easily sing over a whole band, but nowadays we can use amplification so light voices don’t have to struggle being heard! Comparing the color of the two voice kinds, the light one is perceived as higher than the heavy one, even if they are singing the same tune in the same key.
Characteristics of a Heavy Voice: more volume, darker sound, less flexible, will take more time and effort to develop (Alanis Morissette, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Sarah Vaughan)
Characteristics of a Light Voice: more flexible, easier to train, the sound is perceived higher (Madonna, Kate Bush, Prince, Michael Jackson, Nat Cole King)
Do you think your voice needs more flexibility to quickly switch between high and low notes, or sing fast ornaments like ad lib?
📌 TIPP. First, try singing things slow and get faster every round! Also, you should avoid always singing the same way, your voice needs variation and versatile use to get flexible!
5. Do you have a clear or breathy sound?
While singing with a clear voice is healthy and not harmful at all, singing with a breathy voice can have a severe impact on your vocal cords and mostly ends up in developing vocal nodules. If you want to be able to sing long term, learn to sing healthily.
So even though, in the past few years, the breathy sound has become very trendy in the Pop world, you should be careful with it and use it wisely.
Pinpoint the lyric pieces you want to give more expressiveness, innocence, etc., and use your breathy sound as a stylistic ornament. By developing a good, clear tone without a breathy sound, your singing will be more controlled, it will come easier, it will sound better and you have the option to vary your different sounds.
6. How do you start a note?
The way you start your note is also called „vocal onset“.There are three ways of vocals onsets:
- Hard (onset of when you moan)
- Soft (with some air in the note)
- Neutral (with an inaudible h before the note)
The Hard onset is the only onset that could eventually be damaging because it uses a lot of tension on your vocal cords. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use it, but you should use it consciously!!
Just like the breathy sound, the hard onset is quite popular at the moment!
7. How is your articulation?
Being understood is not necessarily the top priority when singing, but remember, that singers are the only musicians who have the opportunity to use language and communicate with the audience with actual words…, so why no use it?
Articulation and Pronunciation can have a strong impact on how the listeners hear, feel, and understand the music. You can easily give importance to specific words and make other words unimportant through sloppier articulation. Furthermore, articulation produces a louder and clearer sound.
8. How is your breathing
- Is your breathing low or high?
- Low: When you breathe low, it’s your diaphragm and belly that move. When you breathe in, your belly pops out and when you breathe out, you pull your belly in.
- High: When you breathe high, your chest and shoulders move up when you breathe in.
- Is your breathing audible or inaudible?
- An audible breath can add to expressiveness and specific emotions but can also get in the way of efficient vocal technique!
9. What is Breath support?
- Can you hold notes for a long time or just a little?
- Do your phrases have the same energy in the beginning and ending, or does it collapse towards the end?
- Does your voice sound powerful?
- Can you reach high notes without looking up?
Breath support influences almost every aspect of your singing! If done right it helps you in high passages, when you want to sing with power, to keep a steady energetic level, to blend more easily, and many more things!
10. Do you have a vocal break?
When you sing a gradually ascending or descending passage, does the sound of your voice change at a certain spot? Does it maybe change from a warm and full sound to a shrill and high sound, when going up?
If you find the changing spot, you’ve found your voice break! Everyone has a voice break, some have an abrupt one, others a smooth one. Generally, you should overcome your voice break and be able to sing without it so that you can use it consciously and as a stylistic decision!
Exercise of the day
Enough theory for today! To wrap up this post I would like to share with you an easy yet effective vocal warm-up to start your daily practice.
- Why You Don´t Like The Tone Of Your Voice – Beth Roars
- Why Breathy Singing is Bad: Improve Your Tone and Protect Your Voice – Brianna from musical Bri
- Singing from the Inside out – Ineke van Doorn